The opening sentences of today’s Gospel reveal a particular cultural and religious understanding of the time – that circumstances such as disability (in this case, blindness) were seen as punishments from God for sin. At the end, the excuse of sin is used by the Pharisees to reject his courageous witness and expel him from the synagogue. By labelling him a sinner, they assume a position of superiority and dismiss him completely.
History has shown that people have created many narratives to give one group power over another. Many people have suffered as a result – people with disabilities, women, victims of abuse, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, cultural groups such as the Rohingya in Myanmar or Uighur people in China. Rather than being acknowledged as the equal that they are, they are robbed of their dignity.
Like last Sunday, Jesus challenges the narrative. He steps straight into the middle of the Pharisees’ prejudice and restores not just the man’s sight, but his dignity. We today have the opportunity to bring light to dark situations where dignity is dismissed in the pursuit of power. We can challenge the narratives that claim to give the marginalised “special treatment”, when in fact what is being sought is fairness and equality.
This week marked ten years since Pope Francis’ election as Bishop of Rome. Over that decade, we have seen someone who has strived to live in the way of Jesus – recognising the gift of God in all creation and celebrating the dignity of all people as being made in God’s image. Let us, too, recommit ourselves to doing the same.
The Pharisees were blind to the divinity of Jesus. Do we ask God to open our eyes to his presence in all creation; in all people?
Published in our parish bulletin, Carmel, 19 March 2023
Photo: Aboriginal Flag, Invasion Day march, Redfern, 26 January 2018 by Wikiain on Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0